How award-winning actor Paul Walter Hauser added wrestler to his resumé

He will be at Atlanta’s ‘Battle Riot’ match June 1 at Center Stage, available for free on YouTube.

By 2021, Paul Walter Hauser was already building an impressive acting résumé.

He had a colorful recurring character in Netflix’s “Cobra Kai,” then broke it big with his role in 2017′s “I, Tonya” about Tonya Harding’s ill-fated plan to take down Nancy Kerrigan during the 1994 Winter Olympics. He also had the title role in another 1990s-set film, 2019′s “Richard Jewell,” directed by Clint Eastwood and focused around the Centennial Olympic Park bombing during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. All three projects were shot in Atlanta.

Hauser befriended Atlanta resident and wrestling legend Diamond Dallas Page, who took him to a match in 2021 featuring Sting (the wrestler, not the singer).

“Dallas said to me, ‘Get in the ring, take a bump’,” Hauser recalled in a Zoom interview Thursday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from Atlanta. A bump is falling on his back on the mat.

Paul Walter Houser, the wrestler (left) and the actor (right). Major League Wrestling/AJC file photo

Credit: Major League Wrestling/AJC file photo

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Credit: Major League Wrestling/AJC file photo

So Hauser, then 34 years old and a lifelong wrestling fan, tried it. “I felt the ring and something magical happened where the sound of the ring I’ve heard my entire life coalesced with me being in the ring” he said. “In that moment I said, ‘I’m going to do this’.”

He has since been juggling a dual career as a pro wrestler and award-winning actor, pocketing an Emmy and Golden Globe for his juicy role as murderer Larry Hall in Apple TV+’s 2022 limited series “Black Bird.”

This Saturday night, Hauser joins 40 other wrestlers in “Battle Riot,” an annual professional wrestling event produced by Major League Wrestling at Atlanta’s Center Stage. In the multi-competitor event, wrestlers are eliminated until one is left and declared the winner. “Battle Riot” is taping at Center Stage in Atlanta and. (It’s sold out so resale tickets are all that’s left on Ticketmaster, but the event is airing for free on YouTube.)

“I happen to represent another alternative walk of life in the diversity of the roster coming from the Hollywood world,” Hauser said.

Hauser admits feeling more at home in many ways interacting with fans at a wrestling match in a small city than working the red carpet at a fancy awards show.

“I have merch and I’m traveling to different cities to wrestle,” he said. “I would equate it to high school theater and high school sports. It has the competitive unpredictable nature of sports by being a bit of team sports in theater. I really love it and meet people at these smaller venues.”

He is going to Center Stage with a goal to “entertain the fans and surprise them with the work I’ve put into wrestling. I look forward to eliminating some guys and kicking some ass.”

Hauser is aware he’s competing against a lot of younger wrestlers. “It’s about staying healthy and knowing your limitations,” he said. “If someone has an idea in a match I think could hurt me or the other person long term, I’ll say no. I won’t do it. There are things I can do and you’ll see those at MLW starting with ‘Battle Riot.’”

He is also developing his wrestling persona. “My wrestling slogan is ‘Wrestling isn’t fake. You’re fake!’” Hauser said. “I’m also debuting my finishing move this Saturday. It’s called Haus Arrest.”

Matt Cardona with Paul Walter Hauser on March 14, 2024. SAM CRIM

Credit: SAM CRIM

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Credit: SAM CRIM

In the meantime, Hauser’s acting career continues to blossom. He stars in an upcoming film about a game show scandal called “Press Your Luck.” He is in Atlanta right now playing a major role in the “Naked Gun” reboot starring Liam Neeson. In the next year to 18 months, he will be taking on roles in an unnamed comedy set to shoot this summer for Amazon in Australia, a big-budget “Fantastic Four” superhero movie, then a biopic playing the late comic Chris Farley.

And though he lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two young kids, he has grown to love Atlanta as a city. “I can see myself living here,” he said. “I hope to do as many projects as possible here.”

He feels like he has a handle on work-life balance, even if it only means five or six hours a sleep a night.

“I wake up really early and focus on self care, whether it’s meditation or hitting the gym,” he said. “It’s really valuable to start your day right so the rest of your day goes better.”

He eats a low-carb diet with lots of protein and vegetables as well as cold brew and egg bites from Starbucks. At night, he’ll grab dark chocolate or a gluten-free cookie for a treat. “Anything with corn syrup or seeded oil is garbage,” he said. “I also take supplements like beef liver and olive leaf extract.”

Overall, he said he’s in his best shape ever.

“I feel really strong,” he said. “I have great energy and my mind is sharp. In the ring, your mind has to be sharp because in the ring, your body follows your mind.”


“Major League Wrestling Battle Riot VI”

7 p.m. Saturday, June 1. $35-$65. Center Stage, 1374 W Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta. (The portion airing on YouTube starts at 9 p.m.).